TUPELO • The shooting death of a 17-year-old girl has prompted police and residents of a south Tupelo neighborhood to take action.
Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings invited city and community leaders to the Haven Acres Neighborhood Association meeting Monday to discuss gun violence in the area.
The invitations were prompted by the Jan. 28 death of Tiara Dancer on Meadow Street. She was a spectator at a street fight. Jacoby O’Neal, 20, is accused of pulling a gun after the fight and firing. Dancer is described as an innocent bystander. O’Neal was arrested days later and charged with second degree murder.
The shooting outraged the community and people who normally would not come forward started calling police with information.
“Last week I saw the community, the police, young people and old people pull together to solve a problem,” said Tupelo Deputy Police Chief Anthony Hill. “Police can’t be successful by themselves. We need your help.
“You have to trust us, and at the same time, we have to trust you. We need those calls and tips. I know we have concerned people who care in this community.”
Armmie White, a Haven Acres resident since 1972, lives around the corner from the shooting site.
“If you see folks out there in the street arguing and fussing, that is the time to call police,” White said. “If that had happened (the other night), that young lady might still be with us. Someone needed to call.”
Police Chief Bart Aguirre pointed out that when police respond to a situation, the officers do not divulge who called.
“We need feedback from the community, people standing up to do the right thing,” Aguirre said. “Give us the location where it is at. Specify if you can see any weapons. That could escalate our response.”
Instead of waiting for calls, the Tupelo Police Department plans to take an active role in stopping the gun violence in area. Patrol officers are being challenged to utilize the Haven Acres substation at the Boys & Girls Club more often. There will be increased patrols as well as safety checkpoints.
“Our goal is to get guns off the street,” Aguirre said. “There are so many guns on the street and many of them are in the hands of youth.
“We will be stopping people and searching for guns. When police respond to kids in the street, it is not police picking on black kids or profiling. It is a safety issue.”
About 20 years ago, Haven Acres was a haven for criminals and crime. In the late ‘90s, the residents partnered with the police and the city to push the crime element out of the area. In less than a year, they saw a 65 percent decrease in loitering, drug trafficking, prostitution and gang activity.
“It’s going to take us all to solve this,” Jennings said. “I care for this community, like a parent cares for a child. We can take back our community just like we did before.
“Let’s step up and be that nosey neighbor and make that call. Officers can’t ride up and down the streets 24 hours a day. That phone on your hip can help.”